Golf Buzz

January 7, 2014 - 8:34pm
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John Holmes
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Graeme McDowell
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Graeme McDowell has gathered a reputation as a refreshingly forthright and insightful interview.
The Golf Writers of America has named former U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell as the winner of its annual ASAP Sports/Jim Murray Award for being accommodating to the media, the association announced on Tuesday.
The GWAA also named Ken Duke as the winner of its Ben Hogan Award for remaining active in golf despite a physical handicap (in his case, scoliosis) or serious illness, and Rhonda Glenn as the winner of its William D. Richardson Award for consistently making outstanding contributions to golf.
Though McDowell went to college at the University of Alabama-Birmingham, he played primarily in Europe after turning pro in 2002. Since winning the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach in 2010, he has joined the PGA Tour. He added a second PGA Tour win, at the RBC Heritage, last year, and owns eight European Tour titles. 
Along the way, he has gathered a reputation as a refreshingly forthright and insightful interview.
''I take my relationship with the media very seriously,'' said McDowell. ''I'm pretty honest to a fault at times. It's very important to me. You guys give us exposure globally. You're a very important cog in the whole golf – and sports – machine. It's important – good, bad or ugly – to give you an idea of what's going on in my head and with my game.''
Duke, 44, earned his first PGA Tour win last summer at the Travelers Championship in his 187th tournament, a testament to his determination.
''I'm overwhelmed, so honored,'' said Duke, who still has the 16-inch metal rod attached to his spine that was surgically placed when he was 15. 
Forced to wear a back brace, he still played high school golf in Arkansas. He turned pro in 1994, played all over the world and on nearly every mini-tour, before finally making it onto the PGA Tour in 2004 when he was 35.
Asked what the iconic Hogan means to him, Duke beamed. ''A class act, probably the best to ever play the game,'' he said. ''He was a guy with an incredible work ethic. He put the time into learning to play the game.''
Glenn, 67, is considered the foremost authority on women’s golf and among the handful of books she has authored is ''The Illustrated History of Women's Golf,'' published in 1991. She also wrote ''Breaking the Mold,'' the story of Judy Bell, the first woman to be president of the U.S. Golf Association.
For 47 years before her retirement last summer, Glenn served in the communications department at the USGA, most prominently at the U.S. Women's Open, the U.S. Women's Amateur, and the U.S. Girls' Junior championships. But while Glenn remained very current, it is her grasp of history that has made her invaluable.
''Winning (this award) is a great honor, and also a surprise. While the award is for outstanding contributions to golf, I'm very aware that, more importantly, the game has made such an outstanding contribution to my life,'' said Glenn.
As a young girl, Glenn used to hit golf balls at a par-3 course in Palm Beach, Fla., where she would watch the iconic Mickey Wright practice. As fate would have it, Glenn later was paired with Wright in an LPGA Tour tournament and they grew to be close friends. It was Glenn who encouraged the USGA to house a Mickey Wright Museum at its headquarters in Far Hills, N.J.
Before establishing herself as the voice of women's golf, Glenn in 1981 was the first full-time national TV network female sportscaster when she began broadcasting at ESPN.
Duke, Glenn, and McDowell will be presented their honors April 9 at the annual GWAA Awards Dinner in Augusta, Ga.
January 7, 2014 - 8:11pm
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T.J. Auclair
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Jordan Spieth
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Jordan Spieth made a big move in the latest U.S. Ryder Cup standings thanks to his second-place finish at Kapalua on Monday.

Though it's still several months away, it isn't too early to start talking about the 2014 Ryder Cup.

Over the course of the next eight months, there will be a number of shifts in the U.S. team standings. The Hyundai Tournament of Champions in Maui, which ended Monday night, was the 11th opportunity overall for players to earn points (the four majors in 2013, along with seven official 2014 events -- yes, seven. Remember, the PGA Tour's new wraparound schedule means that the new Tour season officially began back in October).

2014 RYDER CUP: U.S. points standings | Team USA | Team Europe

Here's a look at some changes in the top 20 following the Tournament of Champions.

Zach Johnson, winner of the Tournament of Champions, was the lone player to crack the top 10 in the U.S. standings who wasn't previously there before the tournament. The victory allowed Johnson to squeak from No. 17 to the No. 6 spot.

Jordan Speith, the 2013 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year, made the biggest leap in the standings, soaring from No. 71 to No. 14 this week on the strength of his second-place showing in Maui. Speith was one of Fred Couples' captain's picks for the winning 2013 U.S. Presidents Cup team at Muirfield Village, so he's already got that team-format experience under his belt.

Matt Kuchar (No. 16 to No. 13) and Brandt Snedeker (No. 18 to No. 15) jumped three spots each, respectively.

Tiger Woods did not play and dropped five spots, going from No. 15 to No. 20.

As a refresher, here's how players can earn points in 2014:

- Prize money earned in 2014 PGA Tour events, beginning Oct. 7, 2013, at the Open through the 2014 PGA Championship, ending Aug. 10, 2014. One point is awarded for every $1,000 earned, excluding the major championships, events played opposite major championships and events played opposite World Golf Championships; all U.S. players making the cut will earn points.

- Prize money earned for the 2014 major championships: (Masters, U.S. Open, Open Championship, and the PGA Championship). Two points are awarded for every $1,000 earned; all U.S. players making the cut will earn points.

- Prize money earned in 2014 events played opposite the major championships and opposite World Golf Championships between Jan. 1 and the 2014 PGA Championship - one-half point will be awarded for every $1,000 earned; all U.S. players making the cut will earn points.

- Team USA captain Tom Watson will complete the team with three Captain's selections in September 2014.

Follow T.J. Auclair on Twitter, @tjauclair.

January 7, 2014 - 11:06am
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T.J. Auclair
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Tiger Woods, Lindsey Vonn
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Lindsey Vonn, an Olympic gold-medalist in downhill and the girlfriend of Tiger Woods, announced Tuesday morning that she will be unable to compete in the 2014 Winter Games due to injury.

Lindsey Vonn, U.S. gold medalist in downhill at the 2010 Winter Olympics -- and the significant other of world No. 1 golfer Tiger Woods -- announced this morning that she will not be able to compete in the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, set to start in February.

RELATED: Tiger in French Alps to watch Vonn | Woods, Vonn hit slopes

The 29-year-old Vonn revealed the news via her Facebook page with this post:

I am devastated to announce that I will not be able to compete in Sochi. I did everything I possibly could to somehow get strong enough to overcome having no ACL but the reality has sunk in that my knee is just too unstable to compete at this level. I'm having surgery soon so that I can be ready for the World Championships at home in Vail next February. On a positive note, this means there will be an additional spot so that one of my teammates can go for gold. Thank you all so much for all of the love and support. I will be cheering for all of the Olympians and especially team USA!
XO Lindsey

Vonn initially suffered a tear to her anterior cruciate ligament and medial collateral ligament in her right knee, with a tibial plateau fracture after a crash in the Super G in the first race of the 2013 World Championships in Schladming, Austria, last February.

Vonn worked hard to get back on the slopes hoping to be in Sochi, but suffered a set back after another crash during a practice run in Colorado in November. Vonn tried to race with the pain, but re-injured the same knee on Dec. 21 in Val d' Isere, France.

According to a statement released by her publicist, "an MRI showed an MCL sprain, which coupled with the torn ACL, has made it impossible to stabilize her knee and be ready to safely ski again next month."

Follow T.J. Auclair on Twitter, @tjauclair.

January 7, 2014 - 9:54am
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T.J. Auclair
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BCS Championship
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Jack Nicklaus with grandson, Nick O'Leary, who plays tight end for the National Champion Florida State Seminoles.

Jack Nicklaus and wife, Barbara -- along with several other family and friends -- were in attendance for last night's BCS National Championship game at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., with a very specific rooting interest.

Sure, the Golden Bear is a proud Ohio State University alum, but on Monday night he was a huge Seminole fan. Nicklaus' grandson, Nick O'Leary, is a star tight-end for FSU. COVERAGE: Recap | Famous Jameis comes through | AU's miracle season runs out

The proud grandparents took this photo before the game:

Though O'Leary's name didn't show up in the boxscore of FSU's thrilling 34-31 victory over Auburn, there's no denying he played a significant role in helping the Seminoles to a 14-0 record.

During his junior year in 2013-14, O'Leary recorded a 16.1-yard average per catch, which led all major college tight ends in the regular season.

O'Leary is expected to return to FSU for his senior year, unless the NFL Draft Advisory Board suggests he could be a first-round pick.

Should he return to FSU in the fall, reports suggest that O'Leary could be the nation's top-ranked tight end at the start of the 2014 season.

Follow T.J. Auclair on Twitter, @tjauclair.

January 7, 2014 - 12:28am
Posted by:
John Holmes
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Brandt Snedeker and Jason Dufner
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Brandt Snedeker (l) and Jason Dufner aren't exactly twins, but don't tell that to Snedeker's young daughter.
To you and I, Jason Dufner and Brandt Snedeker don't look a lot alike. But to Snedeker's three-year-old daughter, Lily, well, maybe there are more similarities than we think.
I'll let this Twitter exchange tell the cutest tale I heard all day:
January 6, 2014 - 7:23pm
Posted by:
John Holmes
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TaylorMade Tour Prefeered MB iron
Courtesy of TaylorMade
The Tour Preferred MB irons from TaylorMade have a compact, classic shape with a thin topline that transitions smoothly into the hosel, minimal offset and minimal camber on the sole.
TaylorMade has reaffirmed its commitment to better players with the introduction of its new Tour Preferred irons. The three new models – the Tour Preferred MB (muscleback), MC (muscle cavity) and CB (cavity back) – all are aimed at highly skilled golfers.
The Tour Preferred MB (muscleback) irons are forged from soft 1025 carbon steel, and created for elite players. Their shape is classic and compact, TaylorMade says, with a thin topline that transitions smoothly into the hosel, minimal offset and minimal camber on the sole. Their grooves are milled to exacting specifications to promote more spin and control from the rough, and they – like all of the new Tour Preferred irons – feature a hand-polished satin nickel-chrome finish.
Designed for players seeking a bit more workability, the Tour Preferred MC irons blend a classic shape with a shallow muscle cavity behind the face to boost the clubs' stability through the swing. Their heads' length, topline and sole width are all slightly larger than on the Tour Preferred MB, and the 3- through 7-irons incorporate TaylorMade's Speed Pocket technology to promote increased ball speed in the lower portion of the clubface for more consistent ball speed and launch conditions across the entire face. 
The Tour Preferred CB irons are full-fledged cavity backs that, TaylorMade says, are created for the better player who wants maximum performance technology in a compact and elegant head shape. The Speed Pockets in the 3- through 7-iron feature micro-slots to promote faster ball speed across the face and higher launch, which promotes more distance. That, the company says, helps make the CB one of the longest player's iron that TaylorMade has ever created. 
The heads on the short iron heads are compact with minimal offset, while those on the long and middle irons are slightly larger with progressive offset for more stability and easier launch. The CB irons also have stronger lofts to work with the higher launch angle generated by the Speed Pocket for what the company calls an optimal combination of distance and controlled trajectory.
All three models come in 3-iron through pitching wedge, feature a hand-polished satin nickel-chrome finish and are equipped with KBS Tour steel shafts and tour velvet grips. The Tour Preferred CB set includes a 51-degree A-Wedge. Custom shafts and grips are available. 
The Tour Preferred MB irons carry a suggested retail price of $1,099 per set, while the Tour Preferred MC are priced at $999 and the Tour Preferred CB are priced at $899. 
Here's a video from TaylorMade introducing the new Tour Preferred irons: